The great garden experiment.

This year marks my first as something resembling a gardener.  While my mother grew lovely things in our yard when I was growing up, I was never an active part of the plantings or maintenance.  However, with a burgeoning interest in food and urban homesteading in the past few years, I entered the LVC year excited about the prospect of having a yard to garden in.

The fall resulted in little bounty, at least from our yard.  I attempted a late sowing of spinach and carrots (because it seemed plausible for both to produce before the frost set in) but neither resulted in anything major.  Over the winter, however, I received some heirloom seeds from one of the board members at the non-profit I work at.  After a bit of research I carefully prepared egg cartons to receive the tiny seeds, which sprouted and eventually grew large enough to be transplanted into makeshift pots, usually half a milk carton or a yogurt container with a few holes in the bottom.  Much to my delight, my seedlings flourished, and come May were ready to move outdoors.  To my started plants I added packets of mixed lettuce seeds as well as spinach, chard and cucumbers, and found marigold, carrot, parsley and cilantro seeds leftover in our house.

And the garden grew.  Mishaps occurred in plenty (the spinach bolted almost immediately, the tomatoes continue to fall over regularly, my first tomato of any size was quickly snatched up by some city creature) but overall my garden was lovely and bountiful.  Almost accidentally I sowed the lettuce at the perfect moment, resulting in fresh greens for salad and sandwiches for months, and am just now adding the chard to the mix.

I spend time with my garden the way some do with their pets, lavishing attention whenever possible both for my sake and, possibly, the plants as well.  So without further ado, here is growth.

Swiss chard!  An earlier photo of the same is the top photo under the blog title.

Cucumber- flowers at this point, but much more successful than the first seeds I planted directly outdoors that were immediately destroyed by insects.

Hot peppers, soon to be made into bread and butter pickles (thanks for the recipe, Rachel!).

Tomato after the rain.  There are branches of the plant with many more green tomatoes, but I thought this particular one was too lovely to pass up.

May you all have abundance in your lives, be it from a garden, from the farmers market, or through books, people, conversations and beauty.



Salutations & an Apology for [Critical] SF

Well, I am getting around to cleaning out my inbox and came across this unfortunately forgotten tidbit.  I have been slacking on my own blog (Philosophy that Bakes Bread) and will shortly return to that, but wanted to stomp around a little in Space to Simplify. Expect a few copied posts from Philosophy that Bakes Bread and some conversational contributions within, oh, let’s say a week.

I noticed that Lauren posted some literature she has delved into recently and I wanted to make a few comments on that.  I plan on having a movie night next week for the recent A&E adaptation of Ursula K le Guin’s “The Lathe of Heaven.”  Le Guin is a widely recognized and loved feminist SF writer who really picks up on the concerns, social movements, and unspoken issues of the day.  The her novel The Lathe of Heaven is not my favorite of her works (see The Dispossessed:  An Ambiguous Utopia), it does capture so many of the issues burgeoning into the socio-political sphere in the early Seventies.  Not only that, it manages to be an SF novel that pokes fun at the common SF tropes through the nonchalant wit of her characters.

Anyway, what I want to get to is mention of those works of fiction that capture ideas more accurately than essay-based prose.  Lauren has spread her love of the Dune series with me, for which I am appreciative, but there are many more.  The works of Philip K Dick describe a world only slightly different from our own but shifted such that we can see it differently, more clearly in a way.  Trying to watch an adaptation of Fahrenheit 451, a bizarrely delicious SF read by Ray Bradbury, brought back some of the ethereal and prescient charm of the book.  I poked fun at my non-“genre-fiction” reading friend for loving Flowers for Algernon, which uses a theoretical surgery to change narrative voice and create a dynamically intelligent persona while attempting to maintain a cogent, solid personal character.  You can also read my post on Avatar and the review futurist Ray Kurzweil gave it if you’d like.

I focus on SF because it gets such short shrift when the devices of SF can be so subtle so as to be missed entirely.  What we see is never what we get, but reliable SF writers are happy to point this out to you, only to provide you with many more layers than critics and naysayers would expect at all.  I do not want discussion to focus exclusively on SF, but it is something like a forte or passion for me right now.  Returning to the point, what fiction have you read that has made you think more sharply, more astutely, and distinctly differently because of how and that the narrative is told?



Places I love: Al’s Breakfast

Though it’s only my second sojourn to this delightful diner, I must say I’m hooked.  Al’s Breakfast is a tiny breakfast nook in the Dinkytown area of Minneapolis, just over the river (but not sadly not through any woods).  The counter boasts a mere dozen or so seats, and patrons-to-be scrunch along the wall behind those who are ordering, eating, and paying.  My first experience at Al’s with dear friends Whit and Caleb began with over an hour waiting in line- we began standing out on the sidewalk and slowly made our way through the awkward doors and into the diner- and finished with ordering more food than I could comfortably eat, but scarfed it down anyway.  While waiting in line Whit regaled Caleb and I with tales of eating at Al’s as a child, waiting in line with her parents and playing with dinosaurs at the counter (which still lie in wait on one of the shelves, just above the scattered yellow stacks of tab packets for the regulars).  Brunch at Al’s was a delightful end to a busy weekend.

Both times I’ve been there I’ve been treated to bountiful coffee to accompany delectable greasy diner food.  Anything with their homemade salsa is particularly amazing, as are the pancakes (I recommend getting the blueberry variety, either in buttermilk or wheat).  They also feature season themed scrambled eggs, though for whatever reason there is no Autumn variety, and you can order any season’s eggs any time in the year.

I’ve only been there twice, but Al’s has already made it into my list of favorite restaurants I’ve discovered in my first year in the Twin Cities, and will certainly be visited many times to come.


Right now I’m reading…

The Great Work- Thomas Berry (something on the state of world and what our future should look like)

Slapstick- Kurt Vonnegut (hurrah for used books that are a bit worn and thus quite cheap at the bookstore)

The Secret Power of Yoga- Nischala Joy Devi (I originally got this from the library in hopes that it would include yoga poses and such, which it does not, but instead has lovely yoga philosophy/spirituality centered in the female perspective which is a rare treat)

I’ve recently finished: Dreamer of Dune and The Bicycle Diaries

I would recommend all of the above, for various reasons.  What are you reading?  Would anyone be interested in a cyber book club?


Words to live by: Rilke.

“Try to love the questions themselves as if they were locked rooms or books written in a very foreign language. Don’t search for the answers, which could not be given to you now, because you would not be able to live them. And the point is to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps then, someday far in the future, you will gradually, without even noticing it, live your way into the answer.”

Not a new quote, but one to look at with new eyes considering the constant transitions many of us are currently experiencing.


What is the world?

I’m devouring David Byrne’s Bicycle Diaries (because it’s a wonderful book, and because I only have it for two weeks and Ben wants to read at least part of it as well before it must be returned), and have stumbled across many many wonderful passages, the most recent of which I want to share with you.  Who would have thought that the lead singer of Talking Heads would have so many philosophical insights on life derived from traveling and biking around the world?

“I sense that the world might be more dreamlike, metaphorical, and poetic than we currently believe–but just as irrational as sympathetic magic when looked at in a typically scientific way.  I wouldn’t be surprised if poetry–poetry in the broadest sense, in the sense of a world filled with metaphor, rhyme and recurring patterns, shapes and designs–is how the world works.  The world isn’t logical, it’s a song.” -David Byrne

Byrne is so wonderfully self aware of his occasional tendencies toward romanticism, yet owns the mentality unabashedly.  I would probably put myself in the same camp, but am still often self-deprecating in moments of romanticism or idealism, rather than wholeheartedly embracing it as an important (albeit sometimes impractical) worldview to add into the mix.  Certainly if one is entirely idealistic to the point of irrationality it is difficult to function.  But we need to imagine things that have yet to exist for the possibility of a better Self, world, and universe.


Western Feminist and GLBT movements: “bourgeois”?

I haven’t even had time to read Lauren’s first posts yet, but I feel like I know Lauren well enough to have a grasp on what inspired her to start this; I feel fully prepared to contribute. I really like this idea. I’ve learned two things very quickly since leaving GAC:

1. Smart, amazing people that you really click with are harder to come by than I would like.

2. Continuing to learn and think critically about all manner of human issues is now more in my own hands than ever.

Any chance to hear people’s ideas, and keep thinking and learning, is alright with me.

Steve and I drove back from his aunt’s cabin in McGregor today, about two hours in the car, and we had one of those long discussions that starts somewhere specific and grows from there. We covered lots of ideas, but one important point Steve brought up was that he has trouble supporting feminist and queer movements in the U.S. after spending a semester in India and seeing people lined up on the side of the street in the morning hoping to get a chance to work that day.

I agree that many movements in the Western world to end specific types of oppression sometimes ignore or downplay other types of oppression. I pointed out that many “feminists” in developing countries are often not fighting for equal wages, but the right to survive.

I feel like this could go two ways: a movement could become so focused as to lose sight of all things other than obtaining a specific objective and exist to only achieve one end regardless of all other consequences, or a movement could become too general and by embodying to broad of a scope, achieve no real meaningful change.

Do you think this is a real problem? Is there a good middle ground?